Bayou Plaquemine’s history as an inland shipping route goes back to long before Louisiana was a state. Native Americans used the waterway that joins the Mississippi River with the Atchafalaya Basin, long before Europeans came onto the scene. When those French and Spanish explorers finally entered the Baton Rouge area, they too, used the bayou for moving goods and people.
Bayou Plaquemine was a natural choice for constructing a series of shipping locks in 1909, when business was booming on the Mississippi River and boats needed to get into and out of the nation’s interior. Plaquemine Lock was an unrivaled engineering marvel, capable of raising ships 51 feet — a world record at the time.
During and after World War II, traffic became too heavy for Plaquemine Lock and a new dam at Port Allen was constructed, directly across the Mississippi from Louisiana State University. The old site was shuttered, but its memory lives on at Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site.
Today, travelers can tour Plaquemine Lock’s facilities, including one historic building that houses the visitor center. See the industrial artifacts that once powered boats up five stories of water between the bayou and river. Then walk across one of the locks, where you can easily imagine what life at this busy shipping outlet must have looked like decades ago. Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site is across the river and 10 miles south of Baton Rouge.
Entrance fee: Please call the Plaquemine Lock for entrance fee information at 225-687-7158.